Korean Slang: 마법의 날, Period

my daneo jjang

In a recent story arc for one of my favorite webtoons, 떨어지는동거, a Korean slang is featured as the title. Several chapters in a row are titled 마법, or magic.

Webtoon Magic

But this arc isn’t really about magic. It’s actually about the female protagonist getting her period – which in Korean slang is referred to as 마법. Yeah, that’s right.

Magic gif.gif

Gif from Giphy

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Entry-level and Experienced Company Workers: 신입 사원 vs. 경력직

my daneo jjang

Recently I came across an interesting differentiation between entry-level workers in Korean companies and employees who might be new to the company but not new to the industry. The former is called a 신입 사원, and the latter is a 경력직 or even 경력직 사원.

But it’s important to draw a distinction between these titles. While it’s quite common for a new hire who has never had a job before to introduce themselves as a 신입 사원 (신 new, 입 entrance/to enter, 사원 employee/worker), it’s unlikely that someone who was hired with experience in the field or industry is going to call themselves a 경력 사원.

Instead, as I encountered in the original sentence from 언어의 온도 by 이기주, they will probably talk about having transferred or moved companies.

“그는 경력직으로 회사를 옮겼고 그곳에서 동료 여직원을 보자마자 한 번도 느껴본 적 없는 낯선 감정에 빠져들었다.”

“He transferred companies as an experienced worker…”

This worker’s value and type of entry to the new company was based on his experience, or 경력. 직 comes from a Chinese character (職) meaning post or position.

Some other office- and company-based vocabulary:

  • 경력서 resume or CV
  • 직장인 office worker (same  hanja as 경력: 職)
  • 회사에 입사하다 to enter a company (as an employee)
  • 퇴사하다 to resign, step down from, quit one’s job or company
  • 퇴직하다 to retire (same  hanja as 경력: 職)
  • 출근 / 퇴근 commuting to work / commuting home
  • 사무실  office
  • 회식 company or work dinner with colleagues and manager

Most office and company-based vocabulary have associated hanja, so look for similar syllables and characters to help you remember their meaning.

For example, 출 is to head out or embark while 퇴 is to leave something or somewhere (발, 학). 경 relates experience (think 험, 력, etc.). 력 refers to ability (능). 실 is associated with rooms (화장). 회 is community or group (사), and 식 has to do with food (음).

Looking for a way to practice this vocab? A great office K-drama is Misaeng, or Incomplete Life. You’ll hear all these words and more in every episode.

The more of these building blocks that you learn, the easier Korean vocabulary will become. It’s a puzzle – all you need are the pieces and you can put the meaning together.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다.

Gumiho Roommates and Unlikely Romances: A Webtoon Review of 간 떨어지는 동거

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안녕하세요!

Do you like Korean nine-tailed foxes, unlikely accidental cohabitation between love interests, and blunt humor? 간 떨어지는 동거 is the webtoon that falls next on my list of favorite webtoons (after Spirit Fingers, of course) precisely due to these features.

Take Lee Dam (이담), a chicken wing-loving, self-assured, no-time-for-your-sexist-or-flirtatious-nonsense college student. Add Shin Wooyeo (신우여 – reversed this becomes 여우신 or fox god), a stupidly attractive, centuries old, chicken-avoiding-and-magic-wielding gumiho who has nearly acquired all the power he needs to become human.

Now make them collide on the street so that the gumiho’s fox orb slips from his mouth into hers.

 

wooyeo

Oh, darn. Guess they have to live together Continue reading

궁예질: Eyepatches and Korean Pop Culture References

missInterpretation header made in Photoshop 11 by myseouldream.com creator

If you don’t know the culture, you’ll never truly know the language. Don’t just look at a textbook. Watch the dramas, the movies. Listen to the music.

Language learning is all about engaging with the culture. And recently, I encountered a great example of why cultural knowledge (historical, current, popular – any and all forms of cultural knowledge) is key to linguistic competency.

In a group chat with well over a dozen native Koreans, I’m a quiet American. We mostly talk business opinions there – should we start this new side project, how should we respond to this request for promotion, what are our stats for last month. That sort of thing. It’s my unofficial training ground for the kind of Korean that I never got around to learning in college: business Korean.

So, sentence by sentence, I pull it apart. And then I run into a word I cannot find anywhere.

궁예질Continue reading

A Sea of Green Tea: Boseong, South Korea

Green. Everywhere, green. Green baked with South Korean sunshine. The fresh, clean scent of mountains clad with green tea bushes. And heat. Oh, yes. At ten in the morning, it was brutally hot in the green tea fields, and it was only getting hotter.

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Into the 시골

Rewind about twenty hours. It was midsummer in 2015. I was on a bus leaving Seoul, heading into the countryside in search of the famous Boseong Green Tea Fields (보성녹차밭). Continue reading

Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature in Translation

안녕하세요!

The Spring 2018 Edition of Nabillera, an online literary magazine that provides translations of contemporary Korean literature, is out, and it’s a great one to check out if you’re new to the scene (or if you’re an old hat, I guess you’re welcome, too).

The Spring 2018 Edition includes short stories and poems as well as interviews with four different Korean authors. It’s great for anyone interested in contemporary literature, Korea, or issues of gender and sexuality; this edition is called “Queer Literature of South Korea“. The previous edition, from Fall 2017, is also available via the “Past Issues” tab on the Nabillera homepage.

Full disclosure – Nabillera was started by a fellow translator/proofreader from my Humans of Seoul translation team, and he has done a fantastic job of selecting contemporary Korean writers to share with an English-speaking audience. I’ve done a little bit of proofreading for some of the translations, but the heavy-lifting is all his and his volunteer team! As he is a full-time college student spearheading a substantial literary translation project, this edition is nothing short of an exceptional achievement – especially since the Korean writers are paid an honorarium.

If you enjoy the work that he and his team at Nabillera are doing, please help support the publication of the next edition.

Enjoy reading!

감사합니다.

 

지금 재생 중

Stuck on the Plateau

Learning another language is an unavoidably humbling experience. Either you find yourself humbled by how stupid you feel but push on with the dream of some day expressing yourself to the fullest – or the feeling of stupidity crowds out everything else until you give up. Continue reading

Bad Language Days™

It’s time to talk about Bad Language Days™.

We all have them. And no, I’m not talking about swearing. I’m talking about the days when, seemingly out of nowhere, your brain shuts down and refuses to function in your second (or third, or fourth) language.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit Bad Language Days happen in my native English, too. Cannot compute. Cannot English. Cannot Korean. Words come to a full stop, and if I’m lucky, this happens before I’m halfway through a word or sentence that I’ve forgotten how to say. A word that I’ve never had a problem pronouncing becomes a mouthful of pain. Continue reading

A Street Named Freedom

my daneo jjang

안녕하세요!

I’m working my way through the bestselling book, 언어의 온도, aka The Temperature of Language, and not everything is as it first seems. Take this excerpt:

“몇 해 전, 봄을 알리는 비가 지나간 스산한 저녁이었다. 출판도시에서 일을 보고 차를 몰아 자유로에 진입했다.”

자유. Ja-yu. It means freedom, it means liberty; it’s a word with a relaxed approach to things. In translating this line, I calmly attributed this word to the author’s description of her driving style, but I was still confused by the usage of ~로 and ~에 at the end of 자유.

When my S.O. checked my work and left a corrective comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Apparently 자유로 (自由路) is a famous road in Korea, one that runs from Seoul to Paju, which is a city ripe with publishing companies and considered the publishing capital of Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone. It’s known for being a place where ghosts are spotted, and it’s quite literally called Freedom Road. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a street, even though I’m familiar with 로 denoting a road rather than being used as a grammatical marker.

“A few years ago, the passing rains spoke of spring, and it was a bleak evening. I had work at the Publishing City, and I entered through Freedom Road, driving my car.”

There’s even a Liberty Street near where I live, and it’s a common enough name for a road; isn’t it interesting that my mind couldn’t make that seemingly obvious conclusion? This is why I love translation; this is why I’ve served as a translator for Humans of Seoul for two years now. There is always some new nuance to be uncovered, like buried treasure hidden in the silt of everyday conversation.

감사합니다.

지금 재생 중

2018년: New Year, New Goals

여러분 안녕하세요! 늦었지만 새해 복 많이 받으시길~

And just like that, another year has come and gone.

The latter half of 2017 was a terrible year for my Korean language studies, but the rest was fantastic. I was enrolled in my teacher’s specially-designed independent study to write nine-episode fanfiction (mine’s published here). I also started my honors thesis around this time last year, and for several incredibly intense, fast-paced months, I immersed myself in prose, poems, and dusty tomes from the university library.

My thesis centered on The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Shin Kyung-sook (famous for Please Look After Mom and I’ll Be Right There). While I mainly referenced the English edition, I had the Korean (titled 외딴 방) to verify which Korean words were used for what. The nuance of the translation of ‘factory girl’ from Korean words like 공순이, 여공, and 노동자 was a vital part of my analysis. The history and culture surrounding each word is different, and it makes a huge difference in contextualizing meaning and emotion.

This is the nuance of language, the nuance of feeling: the essence of the everyday. Continue reading